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Gemination, Degemination and Moraic Structure in Wolof

Bell, Arthur J.

There is a rich system of concatenative morphology in Wolof, consisting mostly of suffixes that attach to verb and noun roots. A number of suffixes trigger changes in the root to which they attach, including gemination, degemination, vowel shortening, fricative-stop alternations, and vowel alternations. Previous analyses of Wolof consider these alternations to be morphological.

I argue that, although morphologically triggered, the alternations result from systematic phonological processes.

Using an Optimality Theoretic (OT) approach, I show that a moraic analysis of phonological structure in Wolof can account for restrictions on well-formed syllable types, the distribution of underlying geminates and prenasalized stops, and patterns of gemination and degemination.

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